Even when all those long-range shots aren’t falling like usual, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors showed they are quite comfortable grinding out wins.
Draymond Green had 22 points and 15 rebounds and the Warriors got defensive in their NBA Finals rematch against Cleveland, beating the Cavaliers 89-83 on Friday.
“It’s good to have one of those every so often,” guard Stephen Curry said. “If our defense shows up, we’re in pretty good shape to win games. We just show our versatility and try to win different ways.”
Curry added 19 points, Klay Thompson had 18, and the Warriors improved to 28-1 by winning their 32nd straight regular-season home game. Instead of doing it with 3-pointers, the defending champions maintained their edge over Cleveland by limiting the Cavaliers to 32 percent shooting.
The Warriors were held under 100 points at home for the first time in more than a year in the regular season, however it happened five times in the playoffs.
“It’s good to practice and get experience in that type of game as well where it’s low scoring, getting stops, knocking down free throws and executing in the half court,” interim coach Luke Walton said. “It’s great experience for us.”
LeBron James scored 25 points to lead the Cavaliers. They had their six-game winning streak snapped.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” James said. “If we play like that defensively, we’re going to be a very tough team to beat. Offensively, we just didn’t have it. No one had it.”
The Cavaliers were short-handed when they lost the final to the Warriors in six games, missing power forward Kevin Love the entire series with a shoulder injury and losing point guard Kyrie Irving to a knee injury late in the first game.
Having both those players healthy for the rematch did little to help Cleveland. Love scored just 10 points on 5-for-16 shooting, and Irving missed 11 of 15 shots in a 13-point game.
With those two struggling, the Warriors built a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter following a jumper by Thompson and a layup from Green.
But James responded with a pair of dunks and a blocked shot on Thompson before Love’s tip-in made it 81-77 with just over 2 minutes to play.
James missed two free throws after Cleveland got another stop and Curry responded with a pair of layups around J.R. Smith’s 3-pointer to make it 85-80 with 57.6 seconds to play.
James shot an air ball from 3 with 12.7 seconds to play to end Cleveland’s comeback attempt.
“Tonight our defense was absolutely unbelievable for all 48 minutes,” Warriors center Andrew Bogut said. “To keep them to the 80s, they never really got in a flow where they could really attack us.”
There was an increased intensity at the start of the seventh Christmas Day rematch of the previous season’s finals with fans on edge far more than for most regular season games.
The officials let both teams play through contact early and the Warriors led 45-42 at the half.
Golden State got its first home win with fewer than 90 points since beating Sacramento 87-83 on march 6, 2013. Guard Shaun Livingston scored a season-high 16 points off the bench. Leandro Barbosa left the game with a sprained left shoulder.
The Cavaliers struggled from long range, making just 5 of 30 3-pointers. Smith was 4 for 8, while the rest of the team hit just one in 22 attempts. Love and Irving combined to miss all 11 attempts.
“It’s one of those nights,” Love said. “I don’t know if you’ll ever see Kyrie and myself go 0 for 11 from 3 again.”
Curry went back to the locker room in the second quarter to get his strained right calf re-taped. He came back and played the rest of the way with no complaints. Walton said he is always concerned when his star has any injury but Curry said this will not be a long-term issue.
“I just needed a little tape adjustment,” Curry said. “I was able to get through it. With two days off and a couple of practices. I’ll hopefully be able to get back to 100 percent.”